Repurposed items find new life through sculpture project

Mismatched tea cups, aged saucers, discarded vases.

By themselves they are a collection of items destined for a back shelf or hidden away in a box.

Finished crosses were displayed throughout the church prior to being sold at an auction in April. Submitted photo
Finished crosses were displayed throughout the church prior to being sold at an auction in April. Submitted photo

But together, under the watchful eye of six local women, they have become pieces of artwork with a higher purpose.

The women turned these everyday objects into colorful crosses as part of a fund-raiser at Zion Lutheran Church, Anoka.

In all, Cheryl Alberts, Connie Dussl, Gerry Friday, Donna McGregor, Linda Nelson and Deb Vadnais created some 125 items that were auctioned off at an event held at the church in April. Proceeds go to recouping the projects costs, with the remainder being put into the church’s general fund.

Under the direction of Donna Amdahl, the women collected and purchased various glassware items and crosses from the Zion super sale, Goodwill and through other donations.

Then they assembled the pieces into crosses in the bride’s room of the church. Work began in mid-January and continued through mid-March when the final pieces were assembled.

In all, the women worked four to five days a week, logging in over 250 hours to create the sculptures that ranged in size from one foot to six feet.

“We lived those (sculptures),” Alberts said. “It was hard at first because we didn’t know how we were going to do this.”

There were some difficulties with the glue at first, with the women discovering it worked best when allowed to dry for at least a day or so.

Putting pieces together took a little time as well.

“You can’t just put any pieces of glass together,” Dussl said. “It’s kind of like a puzzle.”

The women made countless trips to Goodwill and other places to find the right pieces to work together, based on color, shape and size.

“It’s amazing what you could put together,” Alberts said.

Some of finished pieces are whimsical and others more spiritual. The outcome is simply a result of how the items worked together.

“Some were very whimsical, because that’s how the pieces fit,” Alberts said.

One of the keys was to have a large selection of items to choose from in order to create the perfect finished product.

Not all the pieces were made of glass, either. Some were created using plastic pieces amassed by the artists.

“Sometimes you find your inspiration piece and you make it work,” Alberts said.

“You’re at the mercy of what you can find at Goodwill,” Dussl said.

If there was not a cross to put on an item, the pieces were formed to create a cross. They women also created crosses to put on the finished pieces and used lights and other items to embellish the pieces.

The women said working in pairs made the project easier because they could bounce ideas off one another and give a fresh set of eyes to an item that might not be an obvious fit for a particular piece.

Working on the crosses became cathartic for Dussl, whose brother died in January.

“It created a focus for me to create something good out of something bad,” she said.

It also send the women on frequent shopping trips to find new pieces. Both Alberts and Dussl said they became frequent shoppers at local Goodwill stores.

“It almost became an addiction,” Alberts said.

“We were buying any cross we could get,” she said.

The finished products were displayed throughout the church during the Lenten season as a way to recognize Jesus’ suffering on the cross. The sculptures were available for purchase after Easter.

The project was designed as a way to enhance the worship experience from Ash Wednesday through Easter.

This project was a way for people to take home a piece of this spirituality for Easter, Dussl said.

“Our goal was to have crosses to go all throughout the church,” she said.

That original goals – five – were met and more than exceeded the artists’ expectations.